Knowledge and Memory: The Institutionalization of the Written Word

Abstract
<p>Knowledge and Memory: The Institutionalization of the Written Word deals with the relation between institutions and knowledge. More specifically, it deals with the effects of writing on the organization and institutionalization of memory. I show how the conception of memory as a written trace (as something made manifest in archives, documents and books) changes the relation between the subject, time and space to yield new paradigms of knowledge.</p> <p>I begin by tracing the emergence of the written word from its origins in the Greek alphabet in order to show how the birth of the unified, rational self is a product of the spatial projection of speech onto the written page. I then discuss how the spatialization of language relates to the linguistication of space by considering four technological developments in the medieval practise of reading: the art of memory, indexes, signatures and copies. I show how the self is discovered as someone who reads into his own heart as if it were a text and how the newfound literate conception of knowledge as textual dissemination separates the self from his self-knowledge. I end by investigating the logic of institutions which gain power on the basis of a textual organization of knowledge. In particular, I consider how textual canons give professional bodies monopoly over discourse through a disciplinary division of knowledge, resulting in a society which is increasingly dependent on its experts to give it a sense of direction.</p> Master of Arts (MA)